I rode three horses yesterday and two today, plus mucking and mowing, and general take-care-of-the-farm work. A year ago, I was patting myself on the back for managing to feed everyone twice a day and get medicine into Boo. There’s a lot to consider in that comparison.
When I was younger and had no regard for the true capriciousness of life, I read a story about a man whose son was in a terrible car accident resulting in traumatic head injuries that left his body alive, but his brain lifeless. The man tells the story from hindsight — how difficult a time it was to live through and how his choice (borne out of necessity) to show up for work every day became a valuable tool to keeping his own sanity. Every night he would pat himself on his own back about what he had accomplished, how well he was functioning in spite of the great burden he was carrying. The thing is, later, after his son died and after the man had grieved and moved on, he revisited some of his work from that time and was shocked at what he saw through the lens that only hindsight could provide. He saw how shaky his work was, but how people had supported him and cut him slack and then picked up the slack that they had cut. He saw that he had not been functioning so much as desperately trying to function, but that somehow that had been sufficient and it filled him with gratitude and humbleness about the greater thing that had been accomplished, this magnificent act of surviving.
I have been all over that story in my own mind lately. I am in awe of the power of the spirit that cloaks the true picture of our own great frailty or vulnerabilities in times of crisis. And then I am awed by the power of that same spirit to say it is time to let the sun shine brightly on a “you can do this” list that is miles beyond; an understanding that requires an awakening to the truth of where you actually were. The measure of progress, for me, is getting back in the saddle and riding — truly riding — a horse. Or three.
I have Auggie to thank for this and exactly because of his need for direction and leadership. He has made me step up my game and, in doing so, moved me beyond the cloak of what had consumed me — my own survival. I’m not so worried about dying anymore. I have a better purchase on the footing beneath me. I am more expansive in my abilities to give out energy, not just draw it in. This may all sound a bit foolish, but if you have spent any small amount of time living with horses, you would understand how big it is. Horses are very forgiving, but they are also very sensitive to changes in the wavelengths that run through their lives. I thought we were all coping pretty well and then I showed up better, more completely, and the difference for us all has been stunning; stunning in the way that the man in the story experienced — a realization of how “unwhole” I had been and how damn whole I am now.
While writing this, I had a serendipitous phone call from someone I knew from long ago, not well, but she is a horse person and it turns out we have (the serendipitous part) a shared language about this thing which is life lived through and with horses. She talked about sitting on a horse and becoming aware of breathing in her own body again, and in this way knowing she had moved beyond, had survived, an extended period of her life that was full of demands and loss. I get that. Breathing in my own body again. The way that you can only experience on a horse.
I have been filling myself up with it. Auggie and I have spent hours and hours together — on the ground and now back in the saddle — forging a partnership that is letting both of us breathe. A great deal of that effort was in getting Augs to understand how to let down, to not leave or fidget about leaving because he wasn’t sure about what would happen next. These are pictures of Auggie standing still in various situations where he most decidedly did not stand still before. And he is chill. We are both breathing in our own bodies.
I got a new saddle for Auggie and it pleased him and so I tried it on Beamer and Loosa, just to see, and then I began to play with them online and then to start riding.
Beamer delighted me with his enthusiasm to pick up where we had left off, and Loosa was eager to stretch his legs and yet in a way that let me know I could keep up. It is all familiar and yet new again.
I am paying more attention to all of them, bathing, grooming, rubbing, and soothing. We spend time together, down time, breathing the same air. It matters. Maybe I am back. Maybe all that time I thought I was functioning and that things were okay, this great tribe of horses were bowing their heads with a plan to carry me through, to not burden me with the grievous thought that I was letting them down. I could not be more grateful — to have not known that then. To know that now.